Membership Spotlight October 2019

Thursday, Oct 3, 2019

Elisabeth Okrainecis

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Elisabeth Okrainecis a member of CREW Vancouver, who is leaving our beautiful city shortly to pursue new adventures abroad in the exciting cosmopolitan of London.

We would like to bid farewell to Elisabeth by featuring her in this edition of Membership Spotlight. Most recently, Elisabeth worked in a consulting role at Deloitte. Read on to learn more about Elisabeth's background, where she's headed next, and how she plans to maximize her CREW membership abroad!

CREW Vancouver Q & A

Q: Your most recent job was with Deloitte, in their Real Estate Advisory group as a Consultant. Tell us about what a real estate strategy consultant does.

Consulting is a really interesting field of work, because you are tasked to solve a variety of problems for businesses, typically under a tight time frame and usually with limited information. The majority of my projects have been to provide development strategies for mixed-use or retail-focused developments. In order to provide insightful recommendations, the process requires my team and I to understand the existing market from extensive research and analysis. From there we determine the market gap, and creatively design recommendations to the client so that they are able to maximize and balance profitability, experience, and market share.

Consultants get the unique opportunity to broadly shape the future of real estate, as we are always looking at strategies from a high level. With exposure to many different project types all over the world, I love my job because I am able to learn from each project, understand the challenges, and continually provide clients with knowledge.

Q: You have consulted on projects ranging from Toronto, Canada to Panama City, Panama to Seoul, Korea. What's something interesting you can share with us that you have learned from studying these various markets?

I love learning about new cultures and translating concepts that could work from one city to the next. Through my projects in North America, the Middle East, and Asia, I have found that there are many subtle cultural sensitivities that exist, so it is always important to do extensive research! I have always had the opportunity to visit the location before developing a strategy, which has really allowed me to dive into a culture and truly understand who the people are, how do they live, and why they shop. There are definitely a lot of commonalities between countries, as at the end of the day, people are people.

The most value I find is the ability to work with risk-tolerant countries, like the Middle East for instance. They are willing to push boundaries, redefine the art of the possible, and design buildings and experiences that are unthinkable. I love presenting these concepts to North American clients so that we can start to enhance our development on a global scale.

Q: Elisabeth, you have been a CREW member since 2018. What inspired you to join CREW and what have you gained since joining?

I joined CREW in 2018 because I wanted to get more involved in the industry in Vancouver and develop a support network. After joining the Events Committee and attending almost every event for the last year I can say that I am nothing short of surprised at the amazing group of individuals that I have encountered. Anyone who knows me will attest to the fact that I am constantly plugging CREW, because it is a great place to meet likeminded people and develop lasting friends that go beyond the boardroom. The events balance topics in commercial real estate with general leadership and business, and I always leave each experience with at least one takeaway and a new business card.

Q: Working on all those international projects must have sparked some inspiration as I understand that you are moving to London. Congratulations! How do you plan to leverage your CREW membership and the CREW Network once you are abroad?

Thank you, it definitely did. I have lived in Edmonton, Sydney Australia, and Vancouver, so London seems to be the next logical step, and I am vibrating with excitement! Once I determined that London was going to be my next homebase, I knew I needed to start making connections overseas. The CREW Network encompasses over 11,000 professionals across North America and the UK, and CREW Vancouver members have access to the directory. Reaching out to our UK counterparts was definitely one of the best things I have done. I have connected with a few women (although the group is quite small!), and received not only recommendations on top companies, but introductions to recruitment agencies, information on roles, and even advice on which neighborhood to live in.

At one of the recent CREW luncheon's, Event's Director Mo Mojtabavi prompted "a CREW call is never a cold call" and I can definitely attest to this from the response I have received. If you need any commercial real estate advice (or even food recommendations in a new city) I would definitely suggest reaching out to make a friend and expand your network.

Q: Is there any advice you can share with those who may be thinking of taking the plunge and moving abroad?

Yes, just do it! It always seems scarier than it is, but growth really only happens when we get uncomfortable. I will give a warning though, in that is is important to keep an open mind and embrace all the crazy situations that will likely come up. A lot of learning happens outside the classroom (or boardroom), and shape us into who we are today.

Part of being an interesting person is having great stories and being able to connect with a wide range of individuals. There is no better way to stand out, bond with a client, or be the life of the party by sharing information about a different culture, food, or location that others relate to. And for those skeptics, worst case scenario – you can always move back!